Bengali actor Kunal Karmakar on his journey, struggle, expectations-Interview

Bengali Actor Kunal KarmakarOct 18, 2010 (CalcuttaTube): Kunal Karmakar, an actor of Bengali theatre, TV serials, and cinema started acting at a very young age. Then he went to the Rabindra Bharati University where he earned his Masters in Theatre. The aspiring actor talks about his background, struggle, and expectations. Read the exclusive interview at CalcuttaTube.

Kunal has acted under the direction of ace theatre stalwarts like Dwijen Bandopadhyay in ‘Baikunther Khata’ (1998), Gautam Halder in ‘Buri Kaki’ (2007), Koushik Sen in ‘KataKuti’ (2008), Biplab Bandopadhyay in ‘Prem Nei’ (2005), Usha Ganguly in ‘Kashinama’, ‘Rudali’, ‘Maiyat’. The actor who has acted in about 35 plays till date starting with ‘Abak Jalpan’, ‘Amal O Doi-wala’, ‘Mama Bhagne’ in his school days. The actor is currently associated with four theatre groups where his important contributions as an actor are in plays ‘Sastha Ritu’ produced by ‘Niva Arts’ and directed by Biplab Banerjee, ‘Lambakarna Pala’, a ‘MukhoMukhi’ production, directed by Shubhomoy De, ‘Harbadan’ produced by ‘Padatik’ directed by Janardan Ghosh; and the ‘Paschim Banga Natya Academy’ production ‘Kaler Jatra’ directed by Debesh RoyChowdhury.

Kunal has also appeared in forty TV serials so far, among which are ‘Ek Akasher Niche’, ‘Labonyer Sansar’, ‘Sudhu Tomari Jonno’, ‘Khunje Berai Kachher Manush’, ‘Sadhak Byamakhyapa’, etc. His current projects are ‘Agni Pariksha’, ‘Aguner Parashmani’ where is a regular actor.

Kunal Karmakar in costume-'Lambakarna Pala' Bengali play
Kunal Karmakar in costume-'Lambakarna Pala'

CalcuttaTube: Please tell us about your background.

Kunal Karmakar: I am doing theatre since my childhood days. Nobody forced me to, I just opted for it. I used to mimic others and people would enjoy that. When I went to see the play ‘AmarKantak’ in which ace actor Shubhendu Chattopadhyay was in the cast, I imitated him too. My mother was surprised. When I could make people laugh with these amateur performances, I knew that I was good at this. That brought me a lot of confidence.

After I earned my Bachelors in general stream I did special Honors in Theatre. When I took admission in Rabindra Bharati University to study drama, nobody knew it at home. I was scared to tell them. I completed my Masters in drama there. There I came across Dwijen Banerjee, Amar Ghosh, Manoj Mitra. In the university, I acted in two plays ‘Yagneswarer Yagna‘ and ‘TotaKahini‘ under the direction of Amar Ghosh who liked my work and took me to the Sarcarina theatre where I worked with ShantiGopal, the popular ‘jatra’ actor in the play ‘Ulka’. I have also worked with yesteryears’ actress Malaya Sarkar of ‘Kankal’ fame, who has worked Bollywood actor Pradip Kumar in ‘Gulbaj’. Another play I worked in under the professional board ‘Ganga Yamuna’ that was staged at the Ram Mohan Hall.

No one in particular has taught me how to act. I think I learnt the process of acting by being in the profession.

CalcuttaTube: Please say something more about your education in Rabindra Bharati?

Kunal Karmakar: It was a big help. Personally I think that just because you have a Master degree in theatre, it is not something ultimate. I learnt how to get into characters more from my practical experience and with time. When I first got out the university, I was not what I am now.

I became a professional actor after completing my education in drama. Prior to that, even though people told me to go to Tollygunge film industry, but I never did. I always wanted to learn the subject first.

In 1998 I worked as the relief character in ‘Godhulir Rong’.

CalcuttaTube: Please share your experience working with the theatre personas.

Kunal Karmakar: I have heard that Bibhas Charabarty always said that it is not advisable for an actor to work with just one director, because it confines an actor to a particular schooling and style. When you work with different directors, you know better how to get into a character. Different directors have their different ways of teaching. Some act it out. Some give you hints, teach you mentally.  I personally prefer it when a director does not show me the acting. As an actor I flourish more when I get to think over a character and no one tells me what to do.

CalcuttaTube: How have ever acted in ‘jatra’?

Kunal Karmakar: Not yet. I want to act in ‘jatra’ only when I will have enough box value. Though I have acted in TV serials, plays, films I would still not get enough value as an artist. When I reach a level when people will buy tickets to see me in a play, I will definitely do ‘jatra’. Then only I can reach out to my audience more closely. Till then no matter how good I do, they are not going at accept me at that intimate level. This is the age of celluloid. Being famous on screen brings more acceptability.

Here I would like to say that I have taken lessons on mime from Jogesh Dutta and his teacher Shyammohan Chakrabarty and got training in classical music. I think a good actor needs to know many different things. All these have built in me a level of confidence. I know now that I can portray any character.

CalcuttaTube: You are into acting for quite a long time now. So why do you think you still wait a few more years for people to know you?

Kunal Karmakar: There is a saying that one who can do good comedy can also do good serious acting. But one who is good at serious roles may not excel in comedy. Many experts think so too.

I have now done quite a many roles. Unfortunately, directors do not always come to us for good roles, they go for big names. How do I prove myself if I do not get a chance to show my potential! And I really regret this part.

I am not confined to comedy. I have done serious roles, but I am not getting anything quite challenging.

CalcuttaTube: Please tell us something about your works in films.

Kunal Karmakar: When I was working the television soap ‘Ek Aakasher Niche’, I got the opportunity to work in a Hindi movie ‘Haawa Mahal’, directed by Bipin Vijay Nair a filmmaker from Kerala. He was impressed by my work. He then said that if he knew me earlier he would be have given me a better role.

Recently I worked in the Bengali film ‘Amar Sathi’ where I did an important role. The reviews are good, too.

My upcoming Bengali movie is ‘Egaro’ based on the historical football match of 1911 between the British and the natives. The barefoot Indians defeated the British opponents who wore boots in match. This is an art film directed by Arun Gupta and is going to different festivals.

CalcuttaTube: Any mentor in acting?

Kunal Karmakar: No, I am not confined to any one actor.

CalcuttaTube: You remind the audience of Rabi Ghosh. Are you aware of that?

Kunal Karmakar: People tell me so, though I do not know why. Even some people have told me that I resemble Bollywood actors Jhonny Lever, Sachin. May be they discover certain components in my acting that remind them of other actors.

CalcuttaTube: Do you take it as a complement?

Kunal Karmakar: It is not in my control. So I have nothing to say. Everyone has his own opinion. I try to be myself that is all I got to say. I do whatever I think will be apt with the character. And if it resembles some other actor, I cannot help it.

CalcuttaTube: What about directorial ventures?

Kunal Karmakar: I have directed a children’s play ‘Mama Bhagne’.

I have also done some anchoring. I liked doing it because I got to interact with the audience directly. In TV serials, or movies you do not have a direct communication with the viewers. I have anchored in a road show ‘Panch Phoron’ for ‘Channel Vision’. For ‘Spandan Bangla’ channel I directed the road show ‘Dal- e Jhol- e Ombol- e’. The theme and data collection were mine and I scored music, wrote jingles, and anchored the show as well. It was a big hit because it was different from many other non-fiction shows and was fusion of fiction and non-fiction. It was my brain child.

CalcuttaTube: Which one according to you gets more score: theatre or street drama?

Kunal Karmakar: I prefer theatre. Street drama has a different grammar. It strains my voice. It requires high-pitched throwing of dialogues so that it reaches out to everyone. In theatre I can do more voice modulation.

CalcuttaTube: Your best role so far?

Kunal Karmakar: In the play ‘Nana Mukh Nana Rang’ (Production: Prayas; Direction: Kalyan Nag) I did the role of a spot boy which I enjoyed thoroughly. It was a comedy role. The character used to be around the shooting team, heroine, and always mimic them. The story also shed light on how women are treated; different people are exploited, classified in the industry. My role there had an interaction with everyone. It brought me a lot of praise. I am waiting for something like that again, but have not got one yet.

-Shrabanti Basu


Video/Photo: Shrabanti Basu

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